Jack Wattley: What he meant for a young Italian discus enthusiast


For the first time in the history of the website "Fanatik-discus", I leave my place to a friend. Our passion has allowed our meeting and our friendship. He is an Italian that Alps separate from me, the French… This is due to this fabulous fish that is the discus.

This year, my friend Matteo Paolieri proposed me his idea: « Yann, I would like to write an article about Jack Wattley. I would like to publish it on a quality website. I would enjoy to share the photos we looked together when you came my home. I would really honor Jack's work. I want to publish it for his birthday… Would you be interested? "

How not to respond favorably to his request? I had received his photos by mail. I thought they were just mythical. As they represented a piece of the discus history.

They are not always very good quality. We should recall that, at that time, we didn't have the digital tools we have today. But what memories… Matteo had in his hands a treasure. A treasure I have the great honor to share with you here.

Matteo, this place is yours. I thank you again for your trust and your friendship. I just hope my readers will appreciate your story and what you share here. Also wish Jack could read it… He probably read it from the sky…

Goodbye Mr. Wattley…

Yann Hoiret


Jack Wattley left us…

It is the evening of 2 October 2018 Jack Wattley died at his home in Fort Louderdale (USA), Almost 95 years old. On the morning of the following day,, the entire Discus world was mobilized on social media to commemorate this special person, who unquestionably , contributed enormously to the culture of this fascinating fish.

On many Facebook profile, people began to publish their Jack Wattley pictures ; accompanied with words of condolence.

Wattley was an affable person, willing to meet his fans and have talks with them, which immediately turned into exchange of opinions and advices.

I have therefore decided to think about what this man had meant to me; a small Italian amateur breeder. I smile now thinking of his curious way of exchanging greetings, it did not tend your hand, he handed you his fist, looking for yours.

I knew about of his precarious state of health, but I thought naively, that a myth like him would never die.

Jack Wattley turquoise discus


My first meeting with Watlley turquoises

From long time ago, I have been the custodian of important images. Some of my property and others entrusted to me by my friend Alessandro Celli. which have remained hidden in a drawer until now. Those certainly represent moments in the life and work of Jack Wattley, but also, same time, also my path from a very young aquarist to keen hobbyist and discus amateur breeder..

My passion for the discus began in the eighties, in those years I was enrolled in a very active aquarist club in the pretty Tuscan town of Lucca.

A group full of cichlids fans had founded the’ "Gruppo Acquariofilo Lucchese» and some membership really noteworthy tanks and discus.

Among them, I was really fascinated by Pietro, who had built a tank for discus in his studio. It was fully furnished by rocks forming ravines and caves covered with thick vegetation. While Alessandro, recently returned from a trip to the United States; was able to bring himself at home some turquoise discus never seen before: The "Turquoise Wattley hi fin".


Pietro Arrighi Jack Wattley Discus planted tank

The Pietro aquarium with real rocks background, in the lower left corner, you can perceive a pair of "Wattley Turquoise"

Pietro Arrighi Jack Wattley Turquoise Discus with fry

This pair has even reproduced without problem, despite the rocks and the thick vegetation

Alessandro had really visited the farm in Jack Wattley residence at Fort Louderdale. On this occasion, he was able to see with his own eyes both breeding pairs and growing youngs hosting in the farm.


Jack Wattley in his hatchery

Jack inside his discus hatchery, aquariums of this picture are still used in Miami structures!

Starting from that very interesting and cordial meeting, a series of articles published in months of 1989 that Alessandro created for the Italian magazine "Aquarium" were born. I consider this the first really well done job in Italy, who treated the subject seriously and exhaustively.


Italian Aquarium Magazine 1989

The Italian magazine "Aquarium"


Jack Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin Discus community tank 1989 Alessandro Celli

Jack Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin Discus group 1989 Alessandro Celli

Juvenile batch of Alessandro "Wattley Turquoise hi fin"


After being impeccably bred in a 700 litres, tank, the pairs were formed.

Below, you can see the phases of two distinct breeding. I would like, on behalf of all discus lovers, to thank my friend Alessandro Celli for sharing these precious pictures.

Definitely these are, the best images of "Wattley Turquoise Hi fin" ever published.


Jack Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin Discus spawning 1989 Alessandro Celli

Pair of « Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin » discus



Jack Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin Discus spawning 1989 Alessandro Celli

Turquoise Hi fin discus guarding eggs


Jack Wattley Turquoise Hi Fin Discus close up 1989 Alessandro Celli

In this particular case, you can admire the mantle's brilliance of this magnificent selection.


Alessandro Celli - Heiko Bleher - Jack Wattley

Beautiful image from Alessandro Celli with Jack Wattley, Heiko Bleher and Manfred Göbel in the back, during Aquarama in Singapore 1991


Jack Wattley speech in Singapore

Speech by Jack Wattley in Aquarama 1991


At that time, the only available publications on the Italian and European markets were "Aquarium" (Primaris éditions), Discus brief (Germany) and Tropical Fish Hobbyist (American publications of TFH), which also included a very popular section called "Ask Jack". where the famous breeder answered reader's questions, revealing valuable information for correct discus breeding.


Wattley discus list

List of proposed varieties


In the pages of this magazine, you could find a detailed inventory list containing images of the creations of Jack Wattley.

japanese magazine Discus 1 japanese magazine 2

The fruits of his selections were appreciated both in America, in Europe, in Southeast Asia and especially in Japan


My first turquoise from the USA

Jack Wattley Discus certificate

In 1994, I managed to get a number of specimens coming from the Fort Louderdale hatchery, through a direct import from the United States.

The size of the fish sold was really small, they were not bigger than a two-euro coin, but they all arrived safely in my aquarium.


Jack Wattley hand feeding Discus Matteo paolieri

Juveniles in my discus room eating in my hand



Jack Wattley Discus Coeruleas Matteo paolieri

The "Coeruleas" in my furnished aquarium, immediately after laying eggs on the large root


Jack Wattley Discus Panda Matteo paolieri

At that time, Wattley also experimented some crossings with the new "pigeon blood".

The "Discus Panda" was born from this little odd crossing


Jack Wattley Discus Matteo paolieri


Jack Wattley Discus Matteo paolieri

Turquoise with a particularly ruby red eye


Matteo Paolieri Jack Wattley Duisburg 2010

The last time I met Jack 2010, Duisburg 8th International Discus Championship


Matteo Paolieri et Gabe Posada 2007

A photo during my visit to the new "Jack Wattley Discus" facility with Gabriel Posada, 2007, Miami


Göbel - Wattley - Schmidt-Focke

Manfred Göbel and "The Doctor" Edward Schmidt Focke


I think the best way to end this little story is to use the words of Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, from the "Handbook of Discus" published in 1985 by T.F.H:

"The world is full of dreamers … Thank Godness…. for progress in the world comes from these non-conformists. Where would we be without Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bells, Christopher Colombus and … Jack Wattley? Who is Jack Wattley?

If you do not know who Jack Wattley is, then you are certainly not well versed in the inner circles of the discus world. Discus? What's a discus?

If you do not know what a discus is, you are certainly are not well versed in the aquarium world.

The discus is a round and flat fish found in the Amazon river system of South America,, mostly in Brazil. It has been the most expensive of the common aquarium fishes … the most sought after and, for many years, the most difficult to breed.

Most breeders were happy just to be able to breed this sensitive fish, but one man had a dream that he not only wanted to breed them, but he wanted to study them genetically and to produce strains of differently colored discus which would be the envy of the world.

His eye sought beauties that he could only imagine. Butterflies and orchids inspired the colors of his dream fishes… and thought it took more than twenty years, his dreams came true.

Jack Wattley not only collected discus in South America, but he spawned them and inbred them for special colors which were then credited only to "dominant males". Wattley manipulated genes as the same way an artist manipulates a paint brush.

his reward, aside from satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult life's ambition, was to become the most famous fish breeder in the world.

Everybody knows about Jack Wattley if they know about discus. "


I want to thank my long term friends, Alessandro Celli and Pietro Arrighi, for allowing me to publish their precious and unique pictures.

And a very special thank also to my friend Yann that allowed me on Fanatik-discus pages; to remind me beautiful memories of my discus enthusiast life, influenced by the great personality of Jack Wattley.

Matteo Paolieri


Some images are taken from Tropical Fish Hobbyist (publication TFH), Discus Annual 1992 (publication TFH), «Handbook of Discus» by J.. Wattley (publication TFH), «Discus for the Perfectionist» by J. Wattley (TFH pub.) and Aquarium (Primaris pub.)


About Author

Discus Breeder and Discus columnist, Yann Hoiret share on the website Fanatik-Discus his experience and passion for the King of aquariums. From 2014 He worked as a writer for the french magazine "AquaMag", the German magazines "Discus Live" and "Discus yearbook". He participated as an international judge in France Discus show 2014 and 2016 in Arvert, au Greek Discus Show 2014 in Athens, Discus Show in Paris Grigny 2015, 2017 and 2019, au FIDO concurso 2016, 2017 and 2018 Spain, au Nordic Discus Show 2018 Sweden, au France Discus Show 2018 Cognac, Discusvrienden the discus competition 2018, 2019, 2022 in the Netherlands.


  1. Jenny Harris on

    Great article Matteo and some truly amazing photos…..thank you for sharing them with us. Jack Wattley was indeed an amazing man and the whole discus world should be very grateful that he was so driven to produce his dreams…….his memory will live on forever in the discus hobby!

  2. Regis Leleu on

    Pretty basic work and "A" busy has dedicated his passion. With a start that was not always rosy, but he believed in what he was doing, was devoting his entire life to his favorite fish.
    It will remain the emblem and the benchmark pioneer.

  3. Franco serpetta on

    Grande articolo.
    Grazie matteo per questo bellissimo ricordo.

    (Traduction de l’italien: Excellent article. Merci Matteo pour ces merveilleux souvenirs.)

  4. Gary Walker on

    Great article!
    Even so with out the use of digital photography one can plainly see the beauty that Jack created. Truly amazing to say the least! To think at one time I also had them in my possession. Fantastic, really sums it up!

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